Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977)

There is a legend. A legend of a dinosaur who somehow escaped extinction and survived to this very day! And is living in a lake near Mt. Fuji in Japan! And now with the big Dragon Festival coming up to take advantage of his legend, he feels like a snack! But even with a few people mysteriously disappearing in and around the lake, few believe it to be the handiwork of the Loch Ness Monster’s bad ass cousin! But even the most ancient of killer beasts can get cocky and slip up!

What should have just been another simple midnight snack for our toothy hero instead puts the human lead character in the film hot on his trail! Who could have ever expected (especially someone with a dinosaur brain) that some hysterical woman seeing the remains of a cow you had gnawed on to be so problematic? Ashizawa, who is already in the area hunting the dinosaur his crazy dad always believed was roaming around, checks it out and finds that the horse body is gone. But then looks up and sees it up in a tree! But why? A Plesiosaurus put it there to munch on later! Duh!

The best part of this positively stupid development is that this Grand Canyon-sized leap of logic plays absolutely no part in the resolution of the movie because Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds is one of those Japanese giant monster movies where the humans are completely superfluous. Maybe this is some commentary on the Japanese post World War II psyche or something, but who wants to watch a movie about rampaging creatures where the people run around panicking before finally just watching the monsters duke it out until they fall into a hole or get bored and wander back out into the ocean?

Modern audiences would expect a Will Smith or a Bruce Willis to be jumping on them from the cockpit of a fighter jet to punch them in the face, shove a nuke down their throat and make a witty comment (Here’s a breath mint you ugly Jurassichole!) before skydiving to safety as mushroom clouds erupt behind them. Here? Just Ashizawa and his lady friend trying not to fall off a log into some lava while the monsters play grab ass nearby. That’s pretty much a win for the monsters, right?

But where does Monster Bird fit into all of this? Long before the SyFy Channel did monster tag teams on a weekly basis with their terrible TV movies, Japan was doing it with Gamera and Godzilla films and decades before even that, Universal was doing it with Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf-Man. Toei (proving throughout this film how fortunate we were that it was Toho that made Godzilla movies and Daiei behind the Gamera oeuvre) probably thought that if one sea-dwelling beast (except when it slithers through the forest to hide its leftovers in the trees) was pretty awesome that a second, airborne one would be… legendary!

And honestly, it really almost was legendary. Legendarily terrible of course. Frequently teetering on the edge of being so pointlessly confusing that it threatens to slip into amusing incompetence in almost every scene, the movie sadly never manages anything outrageously awful or memorable, content to be an also-ran generic kaiju film almost no one will remember, even before it ends since many will bail out during what was supposed to pass for the climatic battle of the top billed monsters.

Though we had seen how lame Plesiosaurus was earlier in the movie when it was trying to eat people (usually in vain since I don’t think they were able to build a monster whose mouth could open and close very well) once both monsters are given lots of screen time bumping into each other, all it does is make you appreciate the artistry that goes into choreographing a fight between Godzilla and someone like Gigan.

Both of our monsters were inept in telling any sort of story with their fight. I think Monster Bird was bouncing around like it was having a seizure in an effort to make Plesiosaurus dizzy (and Plesiosaurus did do some weird things with his eyes that made it seem like he might be joining the audience in having a headache) but it never amounted to much since when Monster Bird swooped in for the kill, Plesiosaurus just knocked him out of the sky. Monster Bird did get in a painful-looking eye gouge, but it was all cut short by Mt. Fuji blowing its stack.

While the action between the monsters looked like it was a demo reel of a person right before they started film school, it was as least the part of the movie that made the most sense. Whenever the humans took center stage, I was usually at a loss as to what they were doing or why. Take Ashizawa. Despite him and his boss fighting about his work and despite him working for Universal Stone Company, I never had any idea what his job was or what the tension with his boss was about. And then when he decided to go diving in the lake at the end of movie, I didn’t have the faintest idea why he was doing that either. Was he going to fight the dinosaur? (There was a laughable scene of him brandishing a dagger when the monster got close by later on.)

But even the ideas that are central to the story are less than half-baked. It was theorized that the appearance of dinosaurs meant that something terrible is going to happen like Mt. Fuji erupting. I’m not sure what the science is behind that (much like I wasn’t sure what the science was behind the guy seeing the sky glowing and announcing an earthquake was incoming), but wasn’t Plesiosaurus already swimming around that lake for years so much that they had a festival devoted to him?

And is it really that catastrophic if Plesiosaurus disrupts the Japanese hillbilly concert taking place on the chintzy floating stage in the lake? That’s got to be the best entertainment that little half-assed festival ever had! It’s at least better entertainment than anything that happened to the viewer. Best to just think of this whole thing as merely a legend and not investigate any further.

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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